In 2003 Jason David Beduhn, at the time an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University, released a book called Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament.

In the book, Professor Beduhn analysed nine words and verses[1] (often disputed and controversial around Trinitarian doctrine) across nine[2] English translations of the Bible. At the end of the process, he rated the NWT as the best and the Catholic NAB as the second best with the least bias from the translating team. He explains why it worked out this way with supporting reasons. He further qualifies this by stating that other verses could have been analysed and a different outcome might have been reached. Professor Beduhn clearly makes the point that it is NOT a definitive ranking as there are a set of criteria that needs to be considered. Interestingly, when he teaches NT Greek to his undergraduate students, he uses the Kingdom Interlinear (KIT) as he highly rates the interlinear part.

The book is very readable and fair in its treating of the translation points. One cannot determine his faith position when reading his arguments. His style of writing is not confrontational and invites the reader to examine the evidence and to draw conclusions. In my personal opinion this book is an excellent piece of work.

Professor Beduhn then provides an entire chapter[3] discussing the NWT practice of inserting the Divine Name in the NT. He carefully and politely demonstrates why this is a theologically biased approach and breaches guidelines for good translating. In this chapter, he criticises all the translations that translate the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) as LORD. He is also critical of the NWT for inserting Jehovah into the New Testament when it does not appear in ANY of the extant manuscripts. In pages 171 paragraphs 3 and 4, he explains the process and the associated problems with this practice. The paragraphs are reproduced in full below (italics for emphasis in original):

“When all the manuscripts evidence agrees, it takes very strong reasons to suggest that the original autographs (the very first manuscripts of a book written by the author himself) read differently. To suggest such a reading not supported by the manuscript evidence is called making a conjectural emendation. It is an emendation because you are repairing, “mending,” a text you believe is defective. It is conjectural because it is a hypothesis, a “conjecture” that can only be proven if at some future time evidence is found that supports it. Until that time, it is by definition unproven.

The editors of the NW are making conjectural emendation when they replace kurios, which would be translated “Lord”, with “Jehovah”. In an appendix to the NW, they state that their restoration of “Jehovah” in the New Testament is based upon (1) a supposition concerning how Jesus and his disciples would have handled the divine name, (2) the evidence of the “J texts” and (3) the necessity of consistency between the Old and New Testaments. These are three different reasons for the editorial decision. The first two may be handled here quite briefly, while the third requires more detailed examination.”

The position of Professor Beduhn is absolutely clear.  In the rest of the chapter, he dismantles the arguments put forward by the NWT editors for the insertion of the name. In fact, he is adamant that the role of the translator should not be to repair the text. Any such activity should be confined to the footnotes.

Now the rest of this article is inviting the readers to make a decision on the new Appendix C added to the New Study Edition of the revised NWT 2013.

Making Informed Decisions

In the new Study Edition Bible post-2013 revision, Appendix C tries to justify the reason for adding the name. There are currently 4 sections C1 to C4. In C1, titled “The Restoration Of The Divine Name In The “New Testament,”” reasons are given for the practice. At the end of paragraph 4 there is a footnote and it quotes (red text added for emphasis and the rest of the paragraph can be seen in red later) Professor Beduhn’s work from the same chapter and the last paragraph of the chapter in page 178 and it states:

“A number of scholars, however, strongly disagree with this viewpoint. One of these is Jason BeDuhn, who authored the book Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. Yet, even BeDuhn acknowledges: “It may be that some day a Greek manuscript of some portion of the New Testament will be found, let’s say a particularly early one, that has the Hebrew letters YHWH in some of the verses [of the “New Testament.”] When that happens, when evidence is at hand, biblical researchers will have to give due consideration to the views held by the NW [New World Translation] editors.”” 

On reading this quote, the impression is gained that Professor Beduhn accepts or holds out hope for the insertion of the Divine Name. It is always good to include the entire quote and here I have reproduced not just the rest of the paragraph (in red below) but the three preceding paragraphs in page 177. I have taken the liberty to highlight key statements (in blue font) by Professor Beduhn that shows he sees this insertion as incorrect.

Page 177

Every single translation that we have compared deviates from the biblical text, one way or another, in the “Jehovah”/”Lord” passages of the Old and New Testament. Past efforts by some translations, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New English Bible, to follow the text accurately in these passages, have not been well-received by the uninformed public conditioned by the KJV. But popular opinion is not a valid regulator of biblical accuracy. We must adhere to the standards of accurate translation, and we must apply those standards equally to all. lf by those standards we say that the NW should not substitute “Jehovah” for “Lord” in the New Testament, then by those same standards we must say that the KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NAB, AB, LB, and TEV should not substitute “Lord” for “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in the Old Testament.

The zeal of the NW editors to restore and preserve the name of God against an obvious trend towards expunging it in modern translations of the Bible, while comendable (sic) in itself, has carried them too far, and into a harmonizing practice of their own. I personally do not agree with that practice and think that identifications of “Lord” with “Jehovah” should be placed in footnotes. At the very least, use of “Jehovah” should be confined in the NW New Testament to the seventy-eight occasions where an Old Testament passage containing “Jehovah” is being quoted. I leave it to the NW editors to resolve the problem of the three verses where their principle of “emendation” does not seem to work.

Most of the New Testament authors were Jews by birth and heritage, and all belonged to a Christianity still closely tied to its Jewish roots. While Christianity went on to distance itself from its Jewish mother, and to universalize its mission and its rhetoric, it is important to remember how much the New Testament thought-world is a Jewish one, and how much the authors build on Old Testament antecedents in their thought and expression. It is one of the dangers of modernizing and paraphrasing translations that they tend to strip away the distinct references to the culture that produced the New Testament. The God of the New Testament writers is the Jehovah (YHWH) of the Jewish biblical tradition, however much re-characterized in Jesus’ representation of him. The name of Jesus himself incorporates this name of God. These facts remain true, even if the New Testament authors communicate them in language that avoids, for whatever reason, the personal name Jehovah.

Page 178

(Now we come to the section quoted in the Study Bible. Please see the rest of the paragraph in red.)

It may be that some day a Greek manuscript of some portion of the New Testament will be found, let’s say a particularly early one, that has the Hebrew letters YHWH in some of the verses listed above. When that happens, when evidence is at hand, biblical researchers will have to give due consideration to the views held by the NW editors. Until that day, translators must follow the manuscript tradition as it is currently known, even if some of the characteristics appear to us puzzling, perhaps even inconsistent with what we believe. Anything translators want to add to clarify the meaning of ambiguous passages, such as those where “Lord” might refer to either God or the Son of God, can and should be put into footnotes, while keeping the Bible itself in the words given to us.

Conclusion

In a recent monthly Broadcast (November/December 2017) David Splane of the Governing Body talked at great length on the importance for accuracy and meticulous research in all the information put out in the literature and audio/visual media. Clearly this quote gets an “F” for fail.

This use of a quote that misleads the reader from the original view of the writer is intellectually dishonest. It is exacerbated in this case, because Professor Beduhn rated the NWT as the best translation with regards to the nine words or verses against the nine other translations he reviewed. This flags a lack of humility because it betrays a mindset that cannot accept correction or an alternative perspective. The Organization could choose to disagree with his analysis for inserting the Divine Name, but why misuse his words to give a wrong impression?

All of this is symptomatic of a leadership which is out of touch with the realities of the world faced by most of the brothers and sisters. It is also a failure to realise that all quotes and references can be easily accessed by all in this information age.

This results in a breakdown of trust, demonstrates a lack of integrity and a refusal to reflect on a teaching that might be flawed. It is not something any of us who belong to the Christ experience from him or our Heavenly Father. Father and Son have our loyalty and obedience because of their meekness, humility and honesty. This cannot be given to men who are proud, dishonest and deceptive. We implore and pray that they mend their ways and learn from Jesus all the necessary qualities to be a footstep follower.

_____________________________________________

[1] These verses or words are in Chapter 4: proskuneo, Chapter 5: Philippians 2:5-11, Chapter 6: the word man, Chapter 7: Colossians 1:15-16, Chapter 8: Titus 2:13, Chapter 9: Hebrews 1:8, Chapter 10: John 8:58, Chapter 11: John 1:1, Chapter 12: How to write holy spirit, in capital or lowercase letters.

[2] These are King James Version (KJV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New International Version (NIV), New American Bible (NAB), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Amplified Bible (AB), Living Bible (LB), Today’s English Version (TEV) and the New World Translation (NWT). These are a mix of Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[3] See Appendix “The Use of Jehovah in the NW” pages 169-181.

Eleasar

JW for over 20 years. Recently resigned as an elder. Only God's word is truth and cannot use we are in the truth anymore. Eleasar means "God has helped" and I am full of gratitude.